By JOHNNY R. LEE, PhD.
A long-time traditional trading called ‘barter system’ is very much in active operation in this southernmost part of the country, reviving the ancient practices of exchanging goods without the use of money.
Located at Barangay Bato-Bato, Panglima Sugala in the Province of Tawi-Tawi, every Saturday of the week, one can witness real exchanges of goods, specifically marine products vis-a-vis agricultural yields. Marine products are brought in by Sama Dilaut also known as Badjaos and the latter by agricultural farmers of Panglima Sugala.
The Municipality of Panglima Sugala is dubbed as the ‘food basket’ of the province owing to its fertile soil and having a good source of water from its Malum River. They are the province’s biggest supplier of cassava, bananas, sugar cane, rice, coconut and, during fruiting season – durian, marang and rambutan are in abundance. Meanwhile, the marine products are sourced from its satellite island barangays which is rich in all kinds of fishes, shellfishes and exotic foods like sea-urchins, coral plants and animals like sea anemones, octupusis, cuttlefishes, squids and sea cucumbers. Marine products are either fresh, salted and dried.
Exchanges of goods between the farmers and fisherfolks take place during the first few hours of the ‘market day’. After the ‘barter exchanges’ interested buyers and customers can come in to buy the goods using money.
The market day or ‘tabuh-tabuh’ termed by the natives is always filled with customers or shoppers coming from neighboring municipalities particularly from the Municipality of Bongao who travel by land ( 30 kilometers away) in their private vehicles. Bato-Bato is connected to Bongao by a kilometer-long bridge and has a well-paved highway. It is also frequented by local tourists from outside the province who finds the the products, both marine & agricultural, to be comparative cheaper in price yet, quality-wise, is better and always fresh.
Panglima Sugala is also known to be the Home of Rare Sulu Hornbill bird and the much-sought bird species by ornithologist, the vanishing Bleeding-Heart Pigeon.
The biggest mosque in the province called Golden Masjid Kapunan can be found here. It also hosts a Naval Base Station.
PHILIPPINE MUSLIM TODAY